Desktop external hard drives potentially offer a few advantages over their portable brethren. They can hold larger capacities, since the 3 TB drives now on the market don't come in smaller portable sizes. Since they are powered by separate AC adapters, they won't drain the juice from whatever laptop you hook them up to. They're designed to sit solidly on a desktop, so the risk of them sliding around is minimal, helping to protect data against hard drive bumps and bruises. That said, unless you need a specific feature or the larger capacity offered by a desktop external drive, the flexibility of a portable external hard drive makes it a better choice for most typical users.
Still, a few desktop external hard drives deserve consideration. Among those are Iomega eGo Desktop. It's offered in a USB 3.0/2.0 version (*Est. $110 for 1TB) and in a USB 2.0-only version (*Est. $105 for 1 TB). While this external hard drive has been on the market for some time in varying forms, reviewers and consumers say this newest version is attractive, affordable and that the USB 3.0 option offers fast transfer speeds for PCs with compatible ports.
Reviewers from PCMag.com, Australia's Choice magazine, Laptop Magazine, PC World, Small Business Computing and DigitalTrends.com have all given the Iomega eGo good marks, and reviews at Amazon.com are typically favorable, though a few users complain of hard drive failures. To truly take advantage of the desktop drive's capabilities versus the portable external hard drives now available, the 3 TB configuration (*Est. $190) is probably the best choice.
For even larger storage needs -- or for backups where you want duplicates to help safeguard your data in case of hard drive failure -- consider the Western Digital My Book Studio II. It contains two independent hard drives and is available in configurations that range from 2 TB (*Est. $180 (2 TB)) to 6 TB (*Est. $350) in total.
The Western Digital My Book Studio II is designed to go with Apple computers, so it is only available in USB 2.0/eSATA versions, making it slower than a USB 3.0 drive. But reviewers give it good marks for simple backup software (compatible with Macs or PCs) and overall ease of use. The drives can be easily set to mirror one another, reducing overall storage to half its original size, but giving you an identical backup of your data should one drive fail.
There are other protective external hard drives on the market, but none works quite like the ioSafe SoloPro, experts say. "Other protective hard drives are essentially regular hard drives with a safe wrapped around them," The Wall Street Journal reports. But the ioSafe's fireproof insulation is chemically embedded with water that vaporizes during a fire to keep the enclosed drive cool. Meanwhile, the vents that ordinarily allow the drive to cool itself automatically close against water or fire.
However, the 15-pound ioSafe SoloPro weighs a lot more than other desktop drives. It costs a bit more, too, and it doesn't include any backup software. Capacities range from 1 TB (*Est. $240 for 1 TB) to 3 TB (*Est. $570). It is offered with either a USB 3.0 connection or a USB 2.0/eSATA interface and, as long as you select the appropriate version, plays well with Windows, Mac and Linux computers. The original ioSafe Solo (*Est. $195 for 1 TB) remains available and provides identical protection, however it is only offered with a USB 2.0 interface and the largest capacity is 2 TB.
IoSafe says the SoloPro will protect data from a fire burning at 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour or from being sunk in 10 feet of fresh- or saltwater for three days. Lots of reviewers have delighted in testing these claims by drowning, broiling and even barbequing the SoloPro and the original Solo to see if they hold up (they do). For added peace of mind, ioSafe includes a year of data recovery with its three-year warranty (you can pay extra for up to five years of recovery and warranty).